Aging & Health A to Z
Care & Treatment
The severity of symptoms during the transition to menopause can vary significantly from one woman to another. If you are bothered by menopause symptoms, be sure to tell your healthcare provider, because there are many strategies and treatments that can help. For instance, if you suffer from vaginal dryness, an over-the-counter, water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly can help. You should avoid douching, which further dries vaginal tissue. Remaining sexually active can help prevent thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls as well. Topical estrogen therapy includes treatments such as inserting creams, rings, or tablets containing low doses of estrogen into the vagina. These may help treat vaginal dryness, ease discomfort during sex, and lower risks of urinary problems.
Hot flashes tend to be one of the most bothersome symptoms of menopause for many women. Strategies you can try to reduce hot flashes include:
- Keeping your home as cool as possible
- Wearing breathable fabrics such as cotton and silk
- Dressing in layers
- Drinking cold beverages
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
- Quitting smoking
- Finding ways to better manage or reduce stress in your life
If your symptoms do not improve with these measures and are interfering with your sleep, mood and ability to function in your daily life, talk to your healthcare provider about prescription medications. Certain medications that are used to treat depression also have been show to improve hot flashes and night sweats in some women.
Hormone therapy is when estrogen is replaced with a pill or patch. Hormone therapy used to be commonly prescribed to women going through menopause to help with menopause-related symptoms, and to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. However, large studies showed that hormone replacement therapy caused harm in some women, including heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. These harms were mainly seen women over age 60. Hormone therapy is no longer used to prevent diseases, but is used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
In order to avoid these risks seen in older women, hormone therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms is usually limited to women under age 60, or within 10 years of menopause. The lowest dose that is effective is used for a limited period of time, usually about 5 years, then tapered off.
Hormone therapy may include just estrogen, or a combination of estrogen and another hormone, progesterone. The progesterone reduces the risk of uterine cancer that can occur with estrogen alone. Women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) do not need progesterone.
The decision to use hormone therapy requires a discussion of your particular situation with your healthcare provider. The risks and benefits of hormone therapy can be affected by your symptoms, age, and time since menopause, as well as your other health conditions and family history of health conditions.
Updated: July 2017
Posted: March 2012